Ostend is a Belgian coastal city in the Province of West Flanders. Its strategic position as a harbor has served the town well but also made it vulnerable to attacks from several enemies. Through the ages, the Dutch, Spanish, Austrians, French and Germans have laid claim to the land, and left their relics. When the railway reached Ostend in 1838, it brought traffic from the hinterland. Many day trippers visit the town, especially in summer, for the beaches and the festivals. Several museums, art galleries and restaurants have been established to attract visitors.
1.Ostend Beach Festival
© Thomas Reimer/stock.adobe.com
The annual electronic music festival brings together more than 80 local and international artists at Klein Strand, Oostende. DJ contests have also recently been introduced. The open air festival is held from a Friday to a Sunday in mid-July. Food is available from concession stands and a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are on sale. Parking and the tram and train stops are 300m from the festival entrance. Camping, ablution and lock-up facilities are on site. 'Shells' are the official festival currency as the venue is a cashless zone. Branded merchandise is available through the festival shop.
Montgomerykaai 1, 8400 Ostend
2.Theater Aan Zee (TAZ)
TAZ is an annual arts festival aimed at a diverse audience. It is held each year for a fortnight around the end of July to mid-August at various venues in the city. Stories are told in various languages. Literature, music and dance events are held. Circus performers, acrobats and other performing artists are also on the program. Some events are targeted at younger audiences and others for adults. The festival is an opportunity for young artists of various disciplines to showcase their talents.
Hendrik Serruyslaan 18a, 8400 Oostende
3.Cycling in Ostend
Cyclists can enjoy diverse terrains and views around Ostend. The coastal route offers sea views, cycle tracks and dunes. Inland there are woods and villages to be seen. It is a little over 20 km to either Brugges or Blankenberge, along cycle tracks and rural roads. Bikes are available for rent and tours can be arranged through service providers in the area. For those touring on their own, accommodation and refreshments stops can be found en route. The environment is safe, the terrain is relatively flat and in summer the days are long, all making for memorable cycling experiences.
4.Mu. Zee Kunstmuseum Aan Zee
The Art Museum in Ostend seeks to promote art in Flemish society in general and Ostend in particular. The home of local surrealist artist, James Ensor, is a satellite of the museum. The artist lived in Ostend all his life. He lived and worked above his parents' souvenir shop until he was 57. He then moved to Ensor House which he inherited from his aunt. He lived there until his death at 89.The house depicts his life in the early part of the 20th century. The museum has a schedule of exhibitions of other artists and offers workshops on Wednesdays and during summer.
Romestraat 11, 8400 Oostende, Phone: +32-0-59-50-81-18
The Oostende Maritime visitor center and ticket office were established in 2014 as part of an initiative to coordinate and promote maritime tourist activities in Ostend. There were ten service providers and their products were not well known. Sports fishing, a visit to an aquarium and scattering the ashes of a loved one are among the services offered on shore or at sea. There are guided walks, ferry services and outings to a marine wind farm on the list of activities. Visitors can walk round an Iceland trawler, an historical sailing boat and the Marine Ecological Center.
Albert I-Promenade 1, B-8400 Oostende, Phone: +32-0-59-70-62-94
Since 1971 there has been only one item on the menu at Koekoekoostende. That item is chicken. There is spit roast chicken, half a spit roast chicken and flambéd chicken. There are various sauces to go with the chicken – mayonnaise, ketchup, curry and appelmoes, an apple sauce. There are however a large number of drinks to choose from in this tavern. In 1976, the Koekoekoostende rally team were international champions. In the early 1980s, Marvin Gaye lived in the area and was a loyal customer. Koekoekoostende is a favorite for late night diners. It is open 7 days a week, from 10:00 to 23:15.
Langestraat 38-40, 8400 Oostende
Mu.Zee, the art museum by the sea, was formed when the Provincial Museum for Modern Art and the Ostend Fine Art Museum merged. It is a joint venture between the province of Flanders and the city of Ostend. The goal is to develop cultural tourism in this coastal area. Mu.Zee is situated in a glass-fronted mid-century, modernist building and houses collections of works from 1850 onward. There are 3500 pieces in the museum, in particular work from three local artists James Ensor, Constant Permeke and Leon Spilliaert. The museum conducts workshops and tours and the Imagination Lab is open for experimentation.
Romestraat 11, B-8400 Ostend, Phone: 00-32-059-50-81-18
8.The Fish Market
© kristina rütten/stock.adobe.com
The fish market in the Ostend harbor has been there since the port was commercialized in the 19th century. It is open daily, except for Christmas, New Year and stormy weather. The fish is delivered on their doorstep, fresh from the sea. It is the place to go for the freshest North Sea fish and Ostend gray shrimp. Sea gulls wait for the waste from the filleting. Cooked samples are available so that purchasers can taste the various fish species available on the day. The building has recently been modernized.
Visserskaai, Oostende 8400
9.Gallerie Beau Site
© Gallerie Beau Site
The gallery component of this establishment is the core business but the owner saw an opportunity to make Beau Site into a relaxing space in which to eat, drink, shop and reflect. The multi-story open plan space is white with stainless steal and wrought iron trim. Large stylistic portraits line the walls that do not offer a sea view. There is an eclectic mix of mid-century modern furniture and contemporary arts and crafts for sale. Patrons can choose to lounge in armchairs, drinking coffee and browsing through art books or to dine facing the sea. The gallery is also an event and performance space which can be hired.
Albert I-Promenade 39, 8400 Oostende, Phone: 0-59-27-85-19
, Michigan beaches
As the name suggests, the star attraction in this restaurant is lobster. It is cooked more than a dozen different ways and is available as starter, main course and take-out. Chef Joost Nollet has more than 30 years' experience, gained in restaurants throughout Europe. The restaurant has been awarded the Q label for quality service. Besides the a la carte menu which includes a range of seafood dishes, there is a three-course set menu which is changed monthly. The collection service menu is vast and includes boxes of shell fish. The restaurant is open 7 days a week.
Van Iseghemlaan 64, 8400 Oostende, Phone: 0-59-50-02-82
© Café Botteltje
The 'café of the little bottle' offers the biggest selection of beers and gins on the coast of Belgium. They sell beers on tap and in bottles and often cook with it. To go with the beer or aperitif, there are starters, appetizers and snacks on the a la carte menu. The main course has a selection of potato, meat and fish dishes to choose from. Shellfish is available in season, usually in midsummer. There is also a weekly set menu and fresh, home-made trappist bread with seasonal salads to choose from. To round off the evening there is a dessert menu and an option to stay overnight in Hotel Botteltje.
Louisastraat 19, Ostend, Phone: 0-59-70-09-28
12.Toi Moi & La Mer (You, Me and the Sea)
© Toi Moi & La Mer (You, Me and the Sea)
As a young man, Chrstophe Snauwaert was awarded the title of Best Junior Chef in Belgium and his fish brasserie has been awarded the Bib Gourmand by Michelin, which speaks to its value for money. Toi Moi and La Mer is situated on the beach in Ostend. The view on three sides is of the sea. Not surprisingly, the specialty is seafood, beautifully presented but prepared simply so that the taste of the sea comes through. The catch of the day is a surprise even to Christophe because the fishmonger has carte blanche to deliver his best fish.
Albert I Promenade, 68, 8400 Ostend, Phone: +32-59-80-66-13
© Histoires D'O
This bistro is set on the seafront. The cuisine is an eclectic mix of American, Mexican and Italian foods in the form of burgers, tapas and pasta. The atmosphere is sociable and the sea views are memorable, whether outside in good weather or inside at sunset. The food is always fresh and the service efficient. The restaurant is open from noon till midnight and is closed on Tuesdays.
Albert 1 Promenade - Zeedijk 53, Ostend, Phone: +32-4-71-45-48-80
© The World Traveller/stock.adobe.com
The fort was erected during the Napoleonic era when the territory belonged to France. The French strategy relied heavily on coastal defense to counter the English naval threat. When Napoleon was defeated in 1814, the area fell under the Netherlands. It was annexed by Germany during the First and Second World Wars. Frescoes painted during the occupation can still be seen in the officers' quarters. The fort is pentagonal with a dry moat and retaining wall. It is a stone's throw from the sea. It now houses an interpretive center, a restaurant and a museum shop.
Vuurtorenweg 13, 8400 Oostende, Phone: +03-2-26-31-85
15.La Galleria Maison
© La Galleria Maison
This restaurant draws inspiration from the sea. The specialty dish is lobster, prepared with garlic and herbs. Any other fish dish can be ordered with or without lobster. Fish, per se, is prepared in a variety of ways. There is fish soup, fish salad, fish sandwiches and fish sauces. Seafood can be purchased live, filleted, smoked or made into sushi or croquettes. La Galleria has two outlets, at Ensor House which is open on Friday and weekends, and at their Studio Shop which is open from Tuesday to Saturday.
James Ensorgalerij 30, 8400 Oostende, Phone: +0-59-41-13-55
15 Best Things to Do in Oostende (Ostend), Belgium
- Ostend Beach Festival, Photo: Thomas Reimer/stock.adobe.com
- Theater Aan Zee (TAZ), Photo: gpointstudio/stock.adobe.com
- Cycling in Ostend, Photo: Tatiana/stock.adobe.com
- Mu. Zee Kunstmuseum Aan Zee, Photo: anwar/stock.adobe.com
- Oostende Maritiem, Photo: Roman_23203/stock.adobe.com
- Koekoekoostende, Photo: Koekoekoostende
- Mu.Zee, Photo: Supak/stock.adobe.com
- The Fish Market, Photo: kristina rütten/stock.adobe.com
- Gallerie Beau Site, Photo: Gallerie Beau Site
- Lobster, Photo: Lobster
- Cafe Botteltje, Photo: Café Botteltje
- Toi Moi & La Mer (You, Me and the Sea), Photo: Toi Moi & La Mer (You, Me and the Sea)
- Histoires D'O, Photo: Histoires D'O
- Fort Napoleon, Photo: The World Traveller/stock.adobe.com
- La Galleria Maison, Photo: La Galleria Maison
- Cover Photo: SL-Photography/stock.adobe.com